Season 4 • Episode 9
Workplaces are changing to focus on the strengths of more diverse and inclusive hiring. But how do you move past performative and into progressive change to create a space of belonging? Tune in to hear guidance from diversity strategist and activist Torin Ellis from t ellis brands and Errin Braddock, Enterprise’s Chief Diversity Officer, as they share how to move off the DEIB “treadmill” activity that may make you feel good but doesn’t lead to transformation, and shift to actual progress forward. From training and accountability to AI and ChatGPT, these two cover the gamut of topics to discuss what’s impacting the diversity and inclusion landscape today.
About DE Talk
For DirectEmployers, it’s all about valuable connections and meaningful conversations. This monthly podcast features honest and open dialogue between powerhouse industry experts on a variety of HR topics ranging from OFCCP compliance advice to emerging recruitment marketing trends, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and insightful solutions that help infuse new life into your HR strategies.
Hosted by Candee Chambers, Executive Director of DirectEmployers Association.
Diversity strategist, t ellis brand
Torin leads a progressive boutique with a laser-like focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) strategy and risk mitigation. He embraces a collaborative approach built on transparency, actionable strategy, and rigorous performance monitoring. It’s the reason some of the world’s most forward-thinking companies have trusted him to make DEIB promising and not punitive.
A trusted Practitioner and former Executive Producer and Host of Career Mix, a weekly show on SiriusXM, Torin’s voice has also become requested and trusted by some of the most prominent conference organizers in the U.S. and abroad. As said by Jamie Leonard, CEO & Founder of The Recruitment Events Co., “This year (2019), you did something fantastic. When the tents dropped on RecFest, you stood alone. Our industry was awoken by one name and one voice – Torin Ellis.”
A proponent of “activist-like efforts,” he authored his first book Rip The Resume(September 2016). And lastly, it’s fun to note Technical.ly listed Torin as one of “10 Baltimore tech and entrepreneurship leaders who should run for mayor,” signaling a lighter side of this focused artist. Torin sees nothing but opportunity and runway with regard to DEIB efforts in 2023.
VP & Chief Diversity Officer, Enterprise Holdings
As vice president and chief diversity officer, Errin Braddock is responsible for bringing the organization’s strategic vision for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). That includes developing and implementing an enhanced global DE&I strategy to advance key initiatives, as well as tracking and communicating progress toward organizational objectives.
Braddock joined Enterprise in 2008 in the role of employment counsel. In 2014, he was promoted to assistant vice president for labor and employment. He advanced to vice president for labor and employment in 2020 before the promotion to his current position in 2021.
Braddock has guided and supported the company’s DE&I team since its inception, emphasizing content creation, training and accountability for the company’s many DE&I programs. He is a key advisor for the organization’s HR professionals, general managers and other senior leaders on difficult issues related to race, age, gender and disability opportunities.
Get Ready. The De Talk Podcast starts now. Insightful conversations and dialogue, helping you put the human factor back in HR.
Conversations focusing on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging are abundant in today’s workplace. As we look at driving change in progression, how do we leap off the treadmill of DEIB and move onto a better path forward, that thrives on inclusive hiring and retention? At DirectEmployers’ recent annual meeting and conference in Chicago, we welcomed Diversity Strategist Torin Ellis from the t ellis brand and Errin Braddock, Enterprise’s Chief Diversity Officer, to the stage to provide guidance on what’s impacting the diversity and inclusion landscape today, like AI and ChatGPT, and share takeaways of how to inspire action in workplaces across the nation.
So let’s get started. You both have a passion for diversity, like I just said, but from different perspectives. So Torin is from more of a recruitment standpoint and consulting and Errin as a guiding hand in Enterprise’s DE&I efforts. He also has employment law background, so he switched from that to Chief Diversity Officer at Enterprise. So why don’t you share, both of you… Let’s start with you. You’re new to the stage. Why don’t you share a little bit of information as to how you got into this space?
Very thankful for the invitation. My first DEAMcon.
Happy to be here.
Not your last one either.
Not my last. Hopefully, not my last. Hopefully, I’ll be invited back. Well, I’m a 22-year recovering attorney. As Candee said, I started off in employment law. I was a litigator. And to get specifically to your question, I think this shifted for me. I’ve always been somewhat tangentially involved with DE&I, just as an employment lawyer. I’ve always supported the Office of Diversity that we’ve had at Enterprise for the last 15, 16 years. So it’s not new for us. But I remember after the death of George Floyd, the murder of George Floyd, I began questioning myself a little. What am I doing? And, really, just to be candid, What am I doing for Black people was on my mind. The space is much larger than that. But I kept thinking, “I’m not doing enough. There’s more I need to be doing.” I was feeling something was pulling me to take on a new challenge.
Little did I know that the company was thinking about this role. Little did I know that someone thought this might be a role I might be interested in. I was supremely happy in what I was doing, but I think that was the trigger for me to figure out what is it that I need to do to give back to the community that I came from? And that’s what got me started, at least on this journey. It took a couple of knocks across the head from my wife to say, “Maybe this is what you’ve been looking for,” because it is this new challenge and it is an exciting time and it is extremely crucial to the future in this business. So that’s what got me started directly, but, indirectly, I’ve always been engaged in it as a labor employment attorney.
“Love forces us to remove the mask that we live within and fear that we cannot live without.” Start your morning with a little James Baldwin, DEAMcon. What’s going on? Y’all all right? “Love forces us to remove the mask that we live within and fear that we cannot live without.” Diversity strategist, coach, risk mitigator and speaker. We get work done because it’s required for humanity. So, for me, the motivation is focused on the people inside of our organizations. I understand the power of the tool. I get it. The process, I absolutely get it. But I am centered on the people inside of our organizations, and every single thing that I say today is going to be centered on humanity.
Okay. And we’re just getting started. So the DE&I landscape has changed recently. What do you attribute that to?
I think we should start with Torin. I’m newish to it.
Yeah, I would say that, first and foremost, what we saw last year towards the end of 2022 was a decrease in CDOs and D&I-related jobs. The attrition or the churn was around 33% in just the D&I space, where compared to non D&I related roles it was around 21, 24%. What we’ve consistently seen is that when women elevate to positions of power, there’s not that same emotional benefit for them. They don’t get to enjoy the same emotional benefit that men get to enjoy when they are elevated to power. We see that individuals that are a little gray in the beard are having a harder time securing roles because of ageism. We see… Good brother, I remember you from last year. We see that people that are struggling with disabilities are struggling to find, still, employment.
And why is that? Because in this moment we have people that are in leadership and in power that continue to subscribe to band-aid like efforts, throttling, a little fairy dust of effort, running away from the humanity that should be centered in our businesses. What’s missing is your voice because your leaders, they answer to three people: stakeholders, shareholders, and the markets that they serve and support. As employees, and I’m speaking to the larger body of employees, unless you are demanding that inclusion and equity is important in your organization, they will continue to do things that disrupt and devalue the efforts that we are working so earnestly at in D&I.
That’s an interesting response. I think Torin talks a little bit about the fairy dust. I’d explain it a little bit differently. So being newish to it, what I’ve seen over the last three years, and I don’t think it’s intentional, there’s a lot of activity. To use a little slang, I think people are out doing all the things. Some of it is a little performative. That’s probably the magical pixie dust you’re talking about. But a lot of that, I think, is unintentional.
But I like to call it treadmill running, not to use a lot of analogies. I know we had Shola here yesterday, talked about the cow and the bull. But this concept to me of treadmill running, when I think about treadmills… This is not for everyone. When I think of treadmills, that’s to get me into shape, that’s to help me feel good. I see a lot of companies and a lot of people who are doing this treadmill running. It makes them really, really good, but if we’re trying to get to the other end of that room, treadmill running won’t get you there. And so we really want to focus on what’s the activity, how are we going to get there, not just how we are on a treadmill.
I’ll give you an example. This is about really touching people who really care about this work and want to see progress. So anybody here bought a home before? So you all have heard this concept, and I’m not disclaiming that these aren’t real things, but there’s this real huge move on it’s no longer a master bedroom or a master bathroom. It’s a primary bedroom, a primary bathroom. Don’t get me wrong. All that’s really important. Words are important. But I can tell you as a Black man, I don’t really care about that. Let me tell you what I care about in the real estate market. I care about when I’m selling my home that I don’t have to take down every Black picture that identifies a Black person owns this house. I care about when it’s time to have an assessment done on my home to determine the home’s value I don’t have to have my white neighbor come over and sit in my house during the assessment. That’s what I care about.
But someone else is feeling good because they call my bathroom a primary bath. To me that’s treadmill running. We’re running in place, and that is exhausting. You will get tired, and people will stop. So it has to be about progress. What I’ve seen right now is you have to focus people in on what’s not treadmill running, what’s progress because there is this activity versus progress and we have to be focused on progress. So I’ve seen that change. I’ve had to slow people down and tell them, “You’re on the treadmill. Let’s get off the treadmill. I know you feel good and it makes you feel good that you’ve done all these things, but it’s not really moving anything forward but making you feel better and getting you in better shape.” This is about all of us, as you said. It’s about the entity, the people, all of us. So I’ve seen that shift, and so trying to get people back to progress is a shift that I think we need to start going towards.
Wow. That was quite the answer from both of you. One thing… And, Torin, you and I talked about this at DEAM last year at dinner, but I’m going to address two points here. After the tragedies of George Floyd, everybody was trying to figure out, “We got to do something. What are we going to do?” Because we wanted to make an impact. The one thing I’m very proud of is our Head of Partnerships here at DirectEmployers, also an African American male, said, “We can’t just start throwing money around and just say, ‘Well, hey, we’ve done our part.'” But we started partnering with HBCUs and try to help move the needle, help our Members have those relationships to try and build that impact and help bring people into our Members’ workplaces and that sort of thing.
What I find… And you and I talked about this last year. I was doing diversity training face-to-face over 20 years ago. We had 22,000 employees, and we did the training four hours for every employee, every employee, four hours face-to-face, and an additional four hours for every manager and above. I mean, I trained senior vice presidents, presidents of our operating companies, every single person. Everything was done in about two years, and then diversity training and diversity discussions just kind of went away. You and I were talking, and I said, “You know…” Obviously, it’s not the main solution, but had we kept that conversation, kept that topic top of mind and lived what we learned? I don’t know that we find ourselves on that treadmill and have to always… “Let’s call it a primary bedroom.” I mean, I’m horrified when you said have a white neighbor come in when they’re doing an assessment. But would we really be there today if we had kept that diversity conversation and started living that life and appreciating everybody? Everybody’s into-
Sadly, the answer is, yes, we’d still be here today because the same people that were in power 20, 25 years ago when you were doing four-hour trainings are still in power today. So the truth of the matter is you cannot deny the reality of where we are right now and why we are here. I would say if we’re going to focus on training, first and foremost, add certification to the equation. Training is kind of like… Just look around the room. This is training to a degree. Some people are engaged. Some are not. Some are in the hallway. Training is one of those things where you don’t have to really validate that you were embedded in the information. Certification forces you to regurgitate, to perhaps put in practice what it is that you say you learn. I can hold you accountable when I certify you.
But it’s not just unconscious bias or sexual harassment, data loss prevention. It’s a variety of subject matter over a variety of modalities. I go into organizations and look at learning and development as one of the value points, and it’s amazing to me how many large organizations do not include white papers, academic readings, books, podcasts, documentaries, all of that to help in this training of humanity. We’d rather watch stale, boring corporate video and not watch Crip Camp on Netflix. How many people in the room have watched Crip Camp on Netflix? You see, look at the room. You got five or six hands right here. Judy Heumann just passed away three, four weeks ago. You don’t know who Judy Heumann is, and you have been focused on visibility in the D&I workplace. She passed away four weeks ago. She’s centered in that documentary. I have all of my clients watch Crip Camp. That is total learning and development.
It’s interesting. So, Torin, you started off with a James Baldwin quote. I’ve got a real affinity toward James Baldwin. Like he said, not everything faced can be changed, but everything changed has to at least be faced. I think that’s what’s happening with training. Originally, it is, I think, for the ignorant. It’s for the people who don’t know but who want to do better. Training can help those folks. But there are also people who don’t know, don’t care. Training doesn’t help them. So what you really need to do for those folks is accountability. As we’ve seen this training aspect of would you have been there 20 years from now… And I understand the power struggles might be different. The rooms still look the same. The struggle still continues.
But I think that’s because we thought, and I’m going to say collectively we since I’m now a part of this journey with you, Torin, and with you as well, Candee, is that we thought training was the answer. So you can watch Crip Camp. You can watch all those things. You can have this holistic training approach. But at the end of the day, if there’s no accountability, it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t force those who don’t want to learn and don’t want to do to do. So figuring out how we drive accountability in this space, that becomes what’s most important. Training’s the baseline. You have to have it. You have to face it. But if you don’t have accountability to go with it, we’ll be back 20 years from now having the same conversation.
Well, I’m going to hop on that frequency real quick, and when we talk about accountability, it’s not always punitive.
Accountability can be beautiful and aspirational, so one gem that you can take away… Every single person in the audience can do this when they get back to the office on Monday. Go to your HR team and just have them add to the performance evaluation one question: what did you do to support our company’s D&I efforts? You. And when I ask it of you and you and you and you, one question, what did you do to support our D&I efforts? And your response may be, “Well, I went to this event. I introduced the recruiting team to this organization. We’ve set up a shop, a booth pop-up in a community.” Awesome.
You might get another person who says, “I tried to work with Candee, and unfortunately the timing wasn’t right. I called this guy named Errin. He was extremely busy, committed, but we just kept missing one another.” Then you get the other person that Errin says, “I didn’t do shit.” Cool. You write it down. And if they got any good common sense, like my grandmother would say, then next year, when they know that that question is coming, they would probably be better prepared to respond with a different answer or feel uncomfortable being in an organization knowing that they are not contributing to something that the CEO, the highest level of leadership, has said is important. Accountability does not always have to be punitive, but it does have to engage. We need to activate engagement.
I hope all of you wrote that down and don’t forget. We’ve talked about that as well, and that does make a lot of sense. So, DE employees, expect that in your performance reviews as well. Torin, you and I have talked also, and I think Errin, too, about being in a situation of correction. D&I is kind of in a time of correction. What do you mean by that? Downsizing?
Yeah, part of the correction has been the loss of representation around D&I related roles inside an organization. But it’s also one of these moments where if we are honest… And I’m going to just share that phrase, bring your full self to work. If we’re going to bring our whole self to work, then we cannot ignore the political headwinds and all of the other things that are happening around us. So we have a number of individuals that are in leadership roles, that are in recruiting roles, that are in other decision making roles, P&L responsibility-like roles that are afraid to make decisions related to DEIB, whatever that decision is, and they are being influenced by what they are hearing in the media. They are being influenced by conversations that are taking place in political circles.
That influence is weighing heavy on them. You have to be willing to push back. I always say the number one rule for doing D&I is being empowered. I can’t empower you, John Fox. Some people will say that. They may walk up to you and say, “Well, I’m empowering people.” No, you are not. You might be inspiring people. You’re motivating and encouraging and supporting people, but I can’t empower you. You have to show up in power. So when I say the stakeholders, the shareholders, and the markets of the customers that we are serving and supporting, you have to be willing to say enough is enough.
We cannot allow this correction to take place in our organization. We can’t continue to operate as an ERG that’s not funded or resourced. We can’t continue to be a recruiting team that wants to establish new relationships at HBCUs or with Black Student Unions or Hispanic-serving institutions and yet we continue to allocate our spend at the same academic institutions we’ve been going to for the last 10, 15, 20 years. You’ve got a relationship there already. Take that money and reallocate it so that you can start some new relationships. But that only happens when you are empowered enough to speak up with business, with data, with a narrative. I’m not saying be a bull in the china shop. I’m saying let’s create and deliver better narratives.
Errin, are you grappling with any of those issues at Enterprise?
Look, I feel really extremely lucky. It’s always been a part, I think, of our ethos. We’ve always cared about diversity, equity, inclusion no matter what additional names we throw in it or acronyms. But, for us, I feel like we’re doubling down on our efforts. I think we’ll be adding… Well, I recall when all the companies started coming out flashing signs. “Hey, we’re going to give money here. Hey, we’re going to give money there.” We’ve seen a lot of that. Now, a couple of companies have backtracked. Some you haven’t heard from since then. But I remember going to my CEO, this is long before I was in this role, and it’s during the pandemic, and we have this conversation about… We’ve been really quiet about the givings. We’re a privately-held, family-owned company. We like to call ourselves small, but I think we’ve gotten past the small mark. But it’s the concept of we have always given back and given to our community.
So when I saw all these comments about all this money being donated, I said, “Man, we need to tell people what the Taylor family has done and what they invest in.” I think it was Jack Taylor, the owner, who said it. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, it’s about how you spend the money that you make, and we choose to spend our money back in the communities. We never talked about it outwardly because it’s a very humble family. But we started this process now where we are out there talking about our giving because, as you all know as talent acquisition professionals, you all know people want to know. Everything’s changing. People want to know how you’re engaging in this space. So I think it’s important to tell a story.
But when I say I’m lucky, it’s because it’s not new for us. This is not about this big revolution like it was for some companies. It was about how do we evolve? How do we continue to get better? What resources do you need? I meet with my CEO once a week for about a… It’s typically supposed to be an hour, but we get talking for about an hour and a half. She’s typically late for her next meeting. But during that hour and a half, she leaves me with this one question, and it’s the one question I think that says this is what she’s serious about. “Errin, what can I do for you? What is it that you need? Do you need additional resources? Whatever you need, let’s talk.” Every meeting. And she’s serious about it.
Now, I’m waiting to hit her with something that I really need. It’s always, “Oh, I’ve got everything I need. I’m good.” But, to me, it’s all about we’re continuing those efforts because it’s who we are. It’s the fakers from the makers. We talk about talking the talk. A lot of places talk the talk, and those places that are talking the talk you don’t hear from anymore because now people are wondering, “Hey, so what is it that you’re doing? Hey, you put out a press release back in 2021. Yeah, what are you doing? Where are you? What’s going on? What’s going on on the people side of the house?” We’re not getting rid of D&I departments, but here’s what’s interesting.
I assume at some point in time… And we knew it would happen. Back in 2021 or 2020, we saw the increase of chief diversity officers and DE&I professionals shoot up 123% on Indeed. It was going to happen. But we know that’s going to come down. We know it was everybody chasing something. I assume, and I say this all the time when I’m speaking with folks eternally, my job is to make sure no matter how small my department may get… My job is to make sure that every one of our 84,621 employees is doing the work. I can’t. I can’t do it for everyone. So I’ve got to have the people who are out there day to day doing the work. Doesn’t matter how small my team is if 84,000 people are doing it.
That’s what our job is. That’s why it doesn’t matter. If you want to cut my department, that’s fine because I’ve got 84,000 people who are going to do this work. That has to be how you have to be in this space because you’ve got to be flexible. I’m not here to talk bad about companies that have done that and had to make cuts. I understand it’s been a tough time for a lot of employers. That’s why it’s important for us and even you in this room to make sure you’re passing that message so, if you happen to be the one who gets the call tomorrow, that you left this company and this world better than what you found it. That’s what our attempt to do is as CEOs.
That is, obviously, for both of you, very important information. What I have seen over the years and even trying to do training 23 years ago, you have to live your beliefs. I mean, live what you’ve learned. Let’s put it that way. So, for instance, if a company says, “We’re all about recycling,” but we don’t have recycling bins in your office. I mean, that’s kind of where we are. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, diversity’s important to us, but we don’t live as though it is important.” How do you move that needle? Because you’re going to have people, hopefully you do have 84,000, but that are living that belief and truly internalizing that. Let’s put it that way. There’s always going to be people that don’t care. What do we do? How do we get to that point where it’s as important to all of our employees as it is to the three of us sitting up here?
Yeah. I think the accountability piece… And, again, Errin hit on it, I’m trying to reinforce it, and I’ll try to reinforce it from a different direction. I think the accountability piece is properly one of the most uncomfortable aspects of D&I. In 2018, Larry Fink from BlackRock, he wrote a letter to his shareholders, and in that letter speaking to shareholders he mentioned and spoke to the fact that he was going to begin including measurements, some sort of evaluation around your efforts towards D&I for his senior leaders. That was the letter that he wrote to shareholders. In 2017 or so, the Business Roundtable came out and said that we should as organizations be focused more on our stakeholders and not our shareholders. The Business Roundtable said, “Focus on your people and not the dividends and the people on the outside.” So we have a number of different positive things that are happening, but we are lacking in accountability.
So I’m going to give you just three things that I want you to consider. Go to your organization, check your website, and see whether or not your CEO has made a declarative statement that D&I is important in the organization. Should be internal-facing. It could possibly be external-facing. Number two, has your CEO reallocated resources to support D&I, headcount and dollars? We don’t always have the right people doing the work of D&I. Sometimes we have emotionally charged individuals running and leading D&I, but they don’t have the acumen. They don’t have the business methodology to impact the bottom line. We need to marry both of them. So we need to put the right people in place leading our D&I efforts throughout the organization, and, of course, that requires dollars. Then, last but not least, hold leaders accountable, period. Declarative statement, reallocation of resources, and hold leaders accountable. To me, that is how we get to the 84,621?
That’s what I’m talking about. That’s how we hit it.
You know, Torin, you talk about this concept of accountability. I think all of you have probably read the studies. I think there are bonuses tied to diversity and inclusion efforts. I tend to be overly practical. I don’t know if that’s because I’m an attorney by trade. But that stuff gets raised and we talk about it. I get asked about it frequently, and my comment always is, “Well, do we do that?” So one of our biggest measurements for our business is growth, and our number one, really, is customer satisfaction. We call it SQI. We judge that. If I’ve got terrible SQI… And so good SQI, company average is 85%. You’ve got 85% of your customers who are happy with you. If I’m at 65, do you think they’re talking about the bonus that I’m not getting if I’m not at 85? No, I’m worried about my job. There’s no bigger incentive to do your job than to do your job.
So when we talk about accountability, all I will ask is treat it like you treat everything else that’s important to this company. If I’m not performing, that means I’m not focusing on growth, I’m not focusing on customer satisfaction. You give me the tools necessary to do that. If I don’t do it, I no longer have a job. I don’t see why diversity, equity, and inclusion is any different. You talk about that form that you fill out and somebody says they don’t care. I can’t say the S-word for some reason. The inside lawyer in me won’t’ allow me to say it out loud. But I feel you. I’m thinking the same thing. But that should not be on a performance evaluation and not addressed in real time. This is a part of your job.
That’s exactly right.
This is what you’re supposed to do. What’s your plan moving forward? Be prepared next year and you better be thinking about it. This is, “I need to be working with you on your plan of how you’re going to address this.” So when you come up next year and you say you didn’t do jack, your job’s in jeopardy. That, to me, that’s real accountability, not bonuses, that. It’s got to be, “This is a part of who we are. This is what we require. If you choose not to do this, that’s fine, but you need to find work elsewhere.” That’s accountability. I think that’s how you move the needle.
And just for those that are out there, it takes time, and that’s part of the problem in this space, is a lot of practitioners are not patient. Being an insider and knowing how our corporation works, my understanding is it is not… We promote them within primarily. So it’s not enough for us to say, by 2030, 25% of our management team will be X. We can’t really say that. What we can say is, if we want to reach that, we’ve got to bring them in, we’ve got to develop them, and we have to get them promoted. So we have to have this ecosystem that is designed to truly be what you say you are, which is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
You can have diversity with no equity and no inclusion, and that means people who say they’re going to hit certain numbers and certain companies can do it. We’re going to reach 30%, 40% by 2030. Well, you can do that, but you may have to keep hiring to do it because you don’t have that inclusive culture that retains people. So we don’t have that, I’ll call it, luxury. We have to actually live it and breathe it if we want to see it. That’s a big difference for us at Enterprise, and that’s what I’m so proud of, is that’s what we’re tied to, that’s what’s important to us. So I’m blessed and lucky to work for a company that believes in that and lives that every day. I’ve forgotten the our question, but I was talking about that.
But you know what? That’s really what people learn from, is the passion that you both have in what comes out. It is interesting because we’ve seen various companies, and you said it’s been walked back a little bit, but, “We’re going to hire…” I mean, this is the way it was advertised. “We’re going to hire 20,000 Blacks by such and such a date. We’re going to hire 30,000.” And I just scratch my head and go, “Well, then why haven’t you already done that?” You just hit on the edge of it, and you had talked about the video on your website or in your corporate career site or wherever or your intranet.
But if you have a revolving door, if you needed additional diversity in your organization, why weren’t you doing something before, and if you were and they were walking out, maybe you need to look internally and say, “What is our culture here?” I used to always laugh when people would say, “From now on, this is going to be our culture.” It’s like, “What?” Your culture just happens. I used to always sit in the corporate headquarters, and I always would laugh because, “This is going to be our culture,” and people out in the distribution centers in Podunk, Idaho would say, “They don’t have a clue what we do here.” That caring, I think, and inclusion of just everybody in that equation is what’s so critical. You agree?
Yeah. The culture is day-to-day interaction, and you don’t get to state it. You have to live it.
Yeah. Absolutely agree.
Well, guys, what do you think about AI? What effect has AI already had, and where are we headed in the future with AI and ChatGPT and on and on and on? We had a funny conversation just last week about ChatGPT in OFCCP speak, and I didn’t get it right. So what are your thoughts?
Yeah. I knew we were going to talk about this, so I did the only sensible thing one would do if they knew they were going to talk about this. I asked ChatGPT. No luck. So I did this last night. I looked up and I typed into ChatGPT… I’m going to mess this up. But I typed it in. It was something along the lines of, “Is AI bad for diversity in recruiting?” I just tapped it in. I wanted to see what it would say. I can’t remember specifically what it said, but in short it said, “No, it’s good, but you have to recognize that it’s only as good as the information that’s out there, which may be a westernized view and so may have a slant,” essentially. And then it mentioned, “But you have to have people,” as kind of a side note.
So I looked at that and I thought… I love technology. The one thing you have to realize is it’s here so it’s not a function of you get to ignore it or say it’s no good or say it’s biased and think it’ll go away. But, no, it’s here to stay. So the question is how can we utilize it to our best benefit? The key is it always has to be people-centric. Listen, there was an event that occurred, another shooting unfortunately, and I think it was a university that used ChatGPT to write the communication that it sent out to its students and it said all the right things. It talked about grieving for the family. It talked about being there for one another. It gave a little bit of an idea of a little bit of humanness to it. But here’s what it couldn’t tell you. It couldn’t tell you if you need to go reach to someone and talk about this, here are the people you reach to.
There’s certain human elements that always will have to be a part of this, and I sat through the EEOC yesterday where we had the commissioners in. It’s so funny. I’m looking at John Fox, good friend. Thank you for all the help you’ve given to Enterprise. But I remember him saying, “No matter what AI does, you’re still on the hook. I don’t get to just blame the algorithm. I don’t get to blame, ‘Hey, this algorithm is the reason why we knocked out 40% of people who are over the age of 40 before it ever got to me.’ We don’t get to have that as a defense.” So if you don’t get to have that as a defense, that gets really scary, and so we have to make sure that the information that we’re a., inputting and what’s coming back, we still need that human element to double-check that.
And I think ChatGPT is great. I used it to help me start a speech I was giving. Now, I wouldn’t copy it word for word. I even used it to send my wife a text. It worked out really well. It worked out really well. I said, “Send my wife a really nice sweet text.” But here’s the thing, I didn’t let it send it. I read it, and then I made it my own. Hey, I self-admitted it, so if you see my wife, I self-admitted it. She knows. But it needs that human element. We can’t count on it to do the job, and we know it.
We’re all biased, but so is AI. AI is pulling from the bias that we write. It’s reading it all, and then it’s spitting out its interpretation of already biased material. There’s no non-biased material that they get to pull from and spit out an answer. It’s everything that’s written, everything that’s talked about, that’s talked about and written with a biased lens. So, of course, there’s got to be bias still within the system. So you always need human check and balances. But it’s here to say, so we better figure how to use it.
Yeah. In 1896, Frederick Kaufman was a statistician for Prudential, and in 1896 he wrote a 330-page report talking about all of the reasons why African Americans… In the report, he called us American Negro, but he talked about all of the reasons why the American Negro could not be insured. 330-page report in 1896. His methodology is embedded in the way that actuaries work today. So the problem that I have is that when I go into certain airports or certain corporate bathrooms and I place my hands up under the sink for the soap disposal or for a paper towel, sometime the machinery doesn’t recognize the pigmentation.
It doesn’t work because the data used to develop that piece of technology was a white skin, Caucasian skin, period. You might think that I’m just making it up, but I’m telling you, if you do a little research, we have a number of examples through history where we have ran 100 miles per hour towards a solution knowing that it was wrong. I’ll take it away from AI for just a moment. Boeing, and I don’t care if anybody in the world works for Boeing, that’s too bad, knew that your planes were faulty, and they ran at 100 miles an hour still putting those planes in the air until it cost us far too many lives. So all I’m asking, and I believe, like Errin, that it is here to stay. I support it, that we are more critical in the large data sets and language sets that are being ingested into the AI, especially that HR tech AI that’s being used.
Quite frankly, all of the AI that’s being used, whether it’s in our community, our grocery store, your church, a conference, I want us to be more critical of how it was developed. Who participated in the process? If it’s not inclusive, if it’s not representative, if it’s not equitable, then I encourage you to push back in your organization, “We’re not using it. We’re not making this investment.” I was on the phone with a client last week. They spent $14 billion on technology last year, 14 billion. So then I started running through a checklist, and I’m like, “Oh, okay, well, you wasted 10 million there and a million here, 500,000 here.” They couldn’t argue because the data is now there to support it wasn’t a great decision. So I just want us to be a bit more discriminative.
One place that I would encourage you to go, there’s a number of places, but the AI Now Research Institute. AI Now Research Institute. There’s an incredible paper from two or three years ago that’s titled The Discriminating Systems of AI, and it lists 10 points that each of you should be familiar with and then can use to challenge your [inaudible 00:40:48]. AI Now Institute.
So I’m sitting here thinking about what both of you are saying, and I’m a little white girl sitting here talking about diversity. I’ve been in HR for over 30 years, and diversity and inclusion and belonging and accessibility is very important to me, and it’s very important to all of us at DirectEmployers and Recruit Rooster. But I also am just thinking about myself and how ignorant I still am, even though I have a passion for it as well.
Actually, your comment about selling a home, I’ve heard that, but I didn’t really understand being in that situation and feeling that. And there was another… Oh, the hand dryer. How many white people here would’ve ever thought about that? I admit that I never did. That’s where we’re missing the opportunity to educate, I think, and I don’t mean formal training but just living that message because we don’t know what we don’t know. How do we move that needle? What do we do? I know we talk about it on performance reviews, like you said. I always tell everybody, “You’re not going to knock somebody down on a performance review when you’ve not made it part of their normal job requirements during the year.” But how do we get past that and teach the people that don’t have an experience in those situations to internalize that? What do we do?
Me personally, it’s just really simple, and we absolutely welcome questions. I know-
Yeah, let’s start.
… Candee’s the moderator, but I don’t want to leave without the benefit of hearing from all of you, if you will. But just real quickly, it’s not always responsible to call people out. Sometimes we have to call people in. You have to wait until you’re not in that particular moment or situation, pull a person to the side, draft them an email, not commotional, just, “I’d like to chat with you about something that you said, something that you did, something that you overlooked.” Call people in. Don’t always be quick to run to social media to put people on blast. Listen, I don’t have Twitter fingers, but I am a person who is really focused on the relationship. I work with a high frequency of love. So that’s who I am and how I show up. I just want us to call people in because when you don’t recognize that the equipment doesn’t work in the bathrooms for people that look like me, that’s an opportunity for you and I to engage about something entirely different, build relationship, add dimension to that, and so we keep moving forward.
I think that’s an important conversation to have. Your thoughts?
Probably very similar. I don’t want to sell past the close. Torin hit the nail on the head. It’s relationship. You can’t possibly know everything. Quite frankly, when I think about it in the context of talking to my colleagues, I tell them, “You should know the people that work for you. You should know what their struggles are. You should know what their goals are.” If you know those things just about the people you work with, that’s how you start to see change. I don’t need to know everything that happens in the lives of a gay colleague, of all people who may have a disability. I just need to know about the people who I deal with and understand what they’re going through and individualize it so I can make their surroundings better.
I have this concept of focus on the three feet in front of you. It’s a large space, and if you try to do too much too soon, I have a feeling you’ll be back on that treadmill. This is about focusing in on relationship and the three feet in front of you and what you can do to improve the life and experience of those people you deal with every day. That’s how you learn. You don’t have to sit in this room to do it. You just have to develop relationships. I think Shola talked about it. He said, “Hey, come down and just meet people and see people.” Yeah, I’ll be in front of another room, probably about 1500 people, at a rental meeting next week. I recognize everybody sits with their buddies and you don’t get to know other people, but that’s how you open up and actually learn more, is that individual one-on-one connection, the three feet right front thing. So I think Torin hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly it.
I have told you about Mary, my mentor, and she was just wonderful, and we could talk. If I said something stupid, she would literally pull me aside, or she would say, “Hey, I want to talk to you about…” Or if I had a question, I could ask her anything, and she was an African American female and probably my closest friend to this day. Been retired for 10 years, but she’s that person that you can have those conversations with. I challenge every one of you to find somebody. I’ve asked the DE employees to sit around the room and get to know other people. So that’s one of those things that… Use that opportunity to learn and to build relationships. I mean, I’m all about relationships. Outreach is about relationships. Think about how far you can go by getting to know other people.
All right. You know what? I think next year at DEAM I’m just going to go ahead and invite both of you back, and what we’re going to do is literally just… I’m not going to moderate anything. We’re going to literally have an hour of nothing but Q&A, let you guys speak for five or 10 minutes at the very start, and then we just do Q&A. You guys all up for that? Yeah. All right. Honestly, I think we’ve already seen the audience has just learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot, and I think you all appreciated what you guys have brought to the table today. So thank you very, very much.
This represents just one of the many incredible sessions featured on the DEAMcon agenda this year. I welcome our listeners to join us in New Orleans April 3rd to the 5th, 2024 for more sessions like this. Visit DEAMcon.org to sign up for our mailing list for event announcements, programming announcements, and more.
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